Lighting yourself on fire…..really???


By Kenneth Justice

~Last week a relative of one of my good friend’s committed suicide….

Married, with three adult children….his suicide caught the entire family off guard…..but then again, doesn’t suicide always catch us off guard?

He and his wife had been married for over 30 years and the speculation surrounding his suicide centers around two things;

1) He was unemployed

2) He and his wife were losing their house

Debt   – Debt – Debt

I swear….it seems like you can’t go five minutes in Western Culture without hearing about money problems….

There are money problems everywhere it seems!

Sadly enough, suicide is not unusual when it comes to people who are saddled with debt.

India is suffering from an epidemic of suicide.

Entire families are committing suicide!

It turns out that there are a lot of unscrupulous money lenders in India who are lending money to farmers at as much as 40% – 50% interest rates! Farmers simply can’t pay the money back and they and their families are committing mass suicide as a way to get out of the situation.

Last week in India, a married couple and their two children under the age of 10 each drank poison….all four of them committing suicide….

When I hear stories like this it really puts my life in perspective. Let’s be honest, the things I tend to think about on a daily basis seem rather trivial in the face of children under the age of 10 committing suicide because mom and dad can’t pay the mortgage on their house.

–) ‘My back hurts’

–) ‘The weather sucks’

–) ‘I wish I had a different job’

–) ‘I’m tired of being alone’

–) ‘My favorite sport’s team lost last night’

While all of those things may have a profound sense of personal meaning to some of us…..compared to committing suicide because you are overwhelmed in debt…they seem rather trivial don’t they?

I’m a bit of an emotional guy….I’m honest enough to admit that it doesn’t take a lot to make me tear up….I suspect that is one of the reasons I was drawn to counseling…..

Thus) it is easy for me to get caught up in a lot of things that are trivial. To borrow the colloquialism, I tend to make mountains out of molehills. I have a proclivity toward making ‘little’ things into ‘BIG’ things…..

But when I come across new stories about families committing suicide at an alarming rate because of debt…..well….it really puts things into perspective for my own life.

When I really think about it… life isn’t that bad….is it?

–          Perspective

I mean sure….there are a lot of things I would love to change or improve…..but compared to a family who’s two 10 year old boys just committed suicide because their parents can’t pay up on the debt they owe…..well my life seems rather peachy keen in comparison.

Isn’t that what so much of life is about; perspective?

When we are on the bottom we want to be on the top…..

When we are on the top we want to be somewhere else…..

I have a friend that resents any and everyone who is a business owner; he especially believes that corporate business owners are evil to the core……

I, myself being a small-business owner know firsthand that many of us….well….there are many times we business owners would love being somewhere else …..

–          Perspective

Our perspective is especially clouded when we are overloaded with busyness…..

I have noticed an alarming trend, especially in the suburbs of America, where men and women try to jam pack every waking minute with non-stop busyness……

Are people scared to have free time?

Are people scared to chill out?

Are people scared because they don’t know what to do when they aren’t moving?

–          Perspective

Whenever I travel to Latin America I am always struck with how much slower the pace of life is among our Southern neighbors. People in Latin America don’t seem to be very concerned with having to do something every moment of every day…..they are happy just being alive….they are happy being with each other.

This isn’t to say that life in Latin America is perfect and life throughout the rest of the Western World is imperfect….not at all.

But I do wonder if Latin American countries know something that the rest of us don’t; that life is precious and better spent if we are staying chilled out…..

I’m reminded of the verse, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries

Of course…even with that verse we have to look at it with perspective because we shouldn’t completely ignore ‘tomorrow’

But there is a lot of truth behind the wisdom of letting go of our worries about tomorrow…….

–          Perspective

My heart goes out to the families in India who feel that suicide is the only way out of their financial problems…..

I wish I had a solution

I wish I had the money to help all of these families

I wish there was a solution

For now, my heart goes out to the people of India; my prayers are with them…….and as I drink my next cup of coffee I think I will spend an extra moment breathing in the preciousness of each moment.


Categories: Culture & Society

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39 replies

  1. I am so sorry, suicide is such a terrible thing 😦

  2. Brilliantly written, and sorry to hear about your friend’s family, and the issues in India. It is so sad that people take advantage and this is the how it ends.

  3. Wow. I’m a bit taken a back by this whole topic. I never realized that folks would become that desperate over being in debt, to actually kill themselves. To me this notion is both horrific and sad. I just finished a Masters degree and have a huge mountain of student loans-with no job in sight. I’ve been looking over 18 months. I know one day job or no job, I will have to face up to the student loan thing-but I would never even consider suicide as an option. For people to end their lives over money? That is very sad and disturbing to me. Your post was a bit like cold water to my face-I was not aware that people did these things in modern times. History however is filled with such stories.Just did not realize it still was going on. Thank for the reality check!

    • Sexinthekitchen,

      It definitely seems extreme…and I can’t imagine every committing suicide because I couldn’t pay my debt….but on the other hand, perhaps there are things you and I do that others could never imagine doing either…..a lot of life is about perspective.

      Thanks for your great thoughts 🙂

  4. Societal pressures to conform to the materialistic society we have built can have horrifically detrimental affects on individuals who are left searching frantically for a solution. This is a daily occurrence across the world and it saddens me. I’m so sorry for your loss and my thoughts are with you and those affected, but mostly his family who are left questioning their own perspective. Live life and love life.

  5. Beautifully written blog. It does help us put things into perspective – those of us living in western society or even that do not carry the terrible burdens someone else does. It is strange the way we can sometimes find comfort in the fact that there is always someone who has it worse off than us, though typically, if we look hard enough, that is the case.

    I don’t relate to having thoughts of suicide as result of being in debt. I’ve had times when I have had alot of money, and times when I have had none, or what seemed was no where near enough. I do however acknowledge all of of think and feel differently about not having money and being debt.

    The couple in India, the parents – that is suicide, the children drinking poison, in my view, that’s murder. They are still minors, and the parents, although wanting to do the best thing, have murdered their children. That’s not right.

    It is immensely sad that they believed they have no other options, as it is with any other person who makes the decision to commit suicide.

    • Misslouella,

      unfortunately, the problem in India with entire families committing suicide probably should be referred to as an epidemic; it is happening a lot! It is very scary that this is going on and very sad.

    • I think, and I may well be wrong, that in countries like India or Thailand or other 3rd world countries, should the parents decide to commit suicide and leave their children behind, their children would suffer more because they would now become slaves to the ones to whom their parents owe and would be severely exploited. That would probably be why the parents decided to have them take their lives too. I don’t agree with suicide as I don’t see that as a solution but I can see how when people are without hope and see no future, they would think that would be a solution. Most of these farmers are uneducated and probably illiterate and would be easy targets for those looking to take advantage of them.

    • I understand the idea of how one could get into that state of mind. 😦 Perhaps I might do the same in their circumstances? Having not ever experienced it means although I can have empathy and sympathy I still am unable to make it to the place where I feel it would be better for them to be dead. The children are too young to reasonably make the decision to die, that’s why they have parents.

      We can grow through experiencing great adversity, and that can be catalyst for change.

      I did a research project on the sexual trafficking of women and children over a number of years. I came across the book ‘Half the Sky’, which demonstrates an amazing collection of moving and inspiring stories of women who had been through devastating potentially life breaking struggles and pushed through, creating great change in the their communities and the world.

      Those children who have had their lives taken by their parents will never have that opportunity to share their experiences with the world, or provide comfort, or create change. Neither for that matter, will their parents. Any way you look at it. It is a tragedy.

    • I agree with you absolutely. Suicide is not a solution and yes, it is a tragedy. I am not saying that it was the right thing for the parents to do, just saying that when people do not have hope, they will resort to ways that they think are right based on their circumstances. There are many people who have gone through heartbreaking tragedies and yet managed to come through and inspire others with their testimonies. Yet, there are also many who cannot see a way out because they do not have and know hope so they see suicide as a way out, and also for their children, rather than to have them be enslaved. I do not think it is right, just stating that is what happens when people do not think there is a hope or a future for them.

  6. Kenneth your friend will never be able to reason through their relatives’ taking his own life. The loss of job or home is the trigger. The desperation to carry out suicide is a complete loss of perspective. The only way I know of to keep people from being in danger of arriving at that hopeless mental state is to put in place a variety of human connections. My mind is capable of losing all hope at times yet I have a network of people that I routinely talk perspective with. If I began to isolate they would notice. Alas even with a loving family people are lost. I need a higher power to guide my perspective daily.

  7. Well thought out, Kenneth. It might be difficult in our country to understand why there would be financial reasons for committing suicide, especially because we have bankruptcy laws for solution. But, it’s not just debt that affects us; how we spend (and make) our money affects the whole of our lives. How we make income is central to choice of careers. How we spend our money expresses our values. And our family is seriously affected by those choices. Maybe money IS the root of all evil.

    • Dane,

      Well, i think it is the ‘love’ of money which might be the root….but your points are well taken, especially when you point out that it is ‘how we spend our money’ which says a lot about who we are….very true.

  8. The people I know who run, run, run, when asked, tell me they don’t want to think about their lives…and if they stop running…that’s what they are forced to do…deal with their lives. I don’t get it but that’s what they tell me when I ask them why they do it. The suicides and the massive depression that seems to blanket so many now days, is a terrible thing. The media vomits misery out by the second and that doesn’t help. Dreams are being shattered. People feel like failures and it’s not their fault. The economy is a mess but it’s difficult to look at the big picture if you are losing your house and can’t feed your family and you are out of work. It’s overwhelming for some people and they can’t see anyway out, except death. Something is very wrong. People should not be forced into desperation, into suicide. I saw a program on TED where a talking head for robotics was telling everyone that most jobs were going to disappear but don’t worry, because you will have leisure time and everyone will get a check from the government to live on. OMG and NO ONE in the audience stood up and started screaming at the educated, elite, white, blond male who was talking. He quoted Lincoln and someone else but the meaning of what both men had said were for times when people rode horses. Totally inappropriate. He said sure, there will be time of transition (when people are jumping out of windows or starving in the streets) but the American people are strong (he will be safe) and will get through it. Okay, so this is the beginning, the warning being put out by the people who run things…no jobs will be available to human beings. Everything will be run by robots (he showed pictures). We are no longer needed. We can relax and get a check from the government, who can’t pay their own debts and are worried about social security. It was the most frightening thing I have ever seen and this man stood there and tried to pretend like everything would be okay. WHEN this happens (not if) suicide will become so common it will no longer be newsworthy and people will simply wonder who will be next.

  9. I believe that everyone contemplates suicide at one point in their lives… So when does it go from being a passing thought to an action carried out? When there appears to be no hope. Some people will say there is always hope, but hope can be hard to see in the fog of depression. Because of the stresses (both economic and social) incidences of suicide will become more prevalent. Because of disconnect in the internet age people do not have the support systems and networks we once had. Unfortunately I only see this getting worst. As for two ten year old children committing suicide in India, I would be more inclined to see their deaths as murder/suicides their deaths being murders their parents death the suicides… it is still a shame and such conditions that led up to it should not be allowed to happen. But lets face it we live in a world that is based on the exploitation of the disadvantaged… until we change our course as a society and a species I don’t see things getting any better… Sad….

  10. Agree on busyness. Indeed – chill the f*** out and revel in life, rather than playing an others rigged game and hoping to win. Especially you families of 4 indulging in group suicide – you are all the universe you need. —–Chagall

  11. In USA the leadership has no sense of the desperation suffered by millions of unemployed. From their Ivory Tower they think no money is some sort of mere inconvenience.

    • Carl,

      What you’ve said is so true; people at the top “think no money is some sort of mere convenience” they are very far removed from the real life problems people are going through.

  12. I’m also sad for the family in India who commit suicide. First time to hear that “unscrupulous money lenders in India who are lending money to farmers at as much as 40% – 50% interest rates”. It’s so hard to pay back 😦

  13. I wonder if that Indian family had any other choice besides starve to death. I don’ t think they have food banks, welfare or a place to put your kids for adoption.

    • Mr Johnson, there is a great movie that was made about the problem in India and gives a lot of information which I referred to in a comment below (Summer 2007) . From what I understand, the food problem in India is VERY serious and a lot of families believe that suicide is what they would rather choose than extreme poverty….it is very sad 😦

  14. i once had a friend tell me that there’s no worries in life and this is why: there are things you can fix and things you can’t. you don’t worry about what you can fix because you can fix them. you don’t worry about what you can’t fix because you can’t fix them. true but hard to live by. we tend to put all the shades of gray in there and for good reason. money is truly evil and right now i really hate it. my heart’s been burdened with a choice i have to make and in essence comes down to money. it’s so unfortunate. i’ve always been a fan of perspective. i don’t think our own problems shouldn’t be thought of as serious as it is serious for that person in that moment, BUT perspective helps a person realize they can face those problems. just a thought.

  15. You do great work and everything has been well said. It is a great topic and sometimes in the west we don’t recognise it enough. Money can cause a lot of problems and will do till the end of time. Bringing life into perspective is hard for some and easy for others. I have known different cases of suicide just in my small world and it never solves anything. Just creates more problems for those left behind

    • Bee, even though we all know the problems related to money… still staggers my mind at time when I consider the real life problems related to money.

  16. Thanks for talking about such a difficult topic. The farmer suicides that are plaguing India have no solution until the government steps up and changes the whole agriculture business. They are going down the wrong path by passing a food security bill that seems amazing unless you realize the ramifications. The whole thing will fall back on already poor farmers and superficially addresses the hunger problem in India. The fact you talked about an issue that doesn’t get enough attention is doing a great service. Indian government is very sensitive to criticisms of foreigners. Remember the horrific Delhi rape case? The fact that there was so much international outrage led to swifter actions. I know people reading this blog now know about farmer suicides is helping a lot. You are right that we forget all the blessings in our life due to minor inconveniences. I know I am thankful I live in a nation where I can drink water out of tap and not die of illness. I have a happy, healthy family. But, it is much easier to complain. It is a bad habit a lot of us fall into.

    • Centrist,

      Even though I am addicted to BBC World news and I try to follow as much as I can about foreign countries, the situation in the farmers escaped me until recently when I saw the Indian film, “Summer 2007” Its a great film that really delves deeply into the problem that you and I are addressing…..

      for those who haven’t seen the film it is worth watching; half of the film is in English and the other half is Hindi with subtitles.

  17. excellent post on perspective…so sorry for your friend and the farmers and their families 😦

  18. The western world has monetarized all the values. When you do this, honor, freedom, and even the human life has a money value. And then comes the debt. When it exceeds the value of life (and nowadays it seems that a life is worth next to nothing for the leaders of the world) and the propaganda about honor, freedom and debt is weaved carefully around the minds of poor, innocent people, the only way out is suicide. The same thing in Greece with 3700 suicides since the crisis begun. Many small businessmen and farmers.
    And of course there is this peculiar set of ethics, that some claim it is christian, (if you don’t get to work, you don’t get to eat) which in my opinion is just a horrible way to involve the clear christian spirit into the dirty doings of capitalism. When there is no work (and I mean PAID WORK, because it seems that everybody wants free workers,) shouldn’t we open the storages where they keep the crops stacked in order to raise the prices and give to the people? And by the way why should the rich peple get to have food and free time when they actually do not work, but live out of the money interest?
    Shouldn’t there be a minimum for all people to live?

    • Vassillis,

      You bring up a lot of good points……

      What bothers me is when the wealthy Christian’s, who have the ability to help the disadvantaged….stand idly by and do nothing…..Its very difficult to attend mass and sit next to someone on my right side who is struggling financially, and then have a rich person on my left who callously ignores the needs around us….

    • Kenneth maybe one day we will meet and discuss all these things, each one from his respective christian perspective. It seems we have a lot in common, even if it is common sense, which is not as common…

  19. I find it terribly sad when people kill themselves over debt and loss of money. It’s not just poor farmers in India; every time the stock market in America takes a severe dive, we see stock brokers leaping out of 30-story windows. It just shows the danger of becoming a slave to money and its creditors. As the Bible says, you cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon.

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